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Pirates' Duke starts on right foot with win


Pirates' Duke starts on right foot with win
ST. LOUIS -- The Zach Duke of spring training was no mirage.

Efficient, poised and stingy, Duke on Wednesday stymied the St . Louis Cardinals for 6 1/3 innings. The Pirates, meanwhile, unleashed a barrage of hits, including four apiece by Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez, and rolled to a 7-4 victory.

Wilson matched a career high with his 12th four-hit game. He had two RBI.

It was Sanchez's 11th four-hit game, including two infield singles and a double, and he scored one run.

"That was a great win for us (because) everybody was involved," Sanchez said. "Zach threw a great game. Up and down the lineup everyone did their share. We're going to need that."

Brandon Moss tied a career high with three hits. Nate McLouth hit a two-run homer. Even Duke got into the act, lining a two-out double to right-center in the sixth inning.

"We swung the bats well," manager John Russell said. "We had opportunities to score a few more. We hit some balls hard in those situations and they made some nice plays against us."

The Pirates amassed 17 hits but never blew the game open because they played the tiniest version of small ball. Twelve of the hits were singles, and the Pirates stranded 11 runners.

"We were putting pressure on them, every at-bat," Duke said. "You see that, it gives you confidence."

Duke (1-0) was sharp enough to make even a slim lead stand up.

"I felt pretty good," Duke said. "Fastball command was there early on. After the first time through (the lineup), I was able to mix in my other pitches and keep them off balance."

It was Duke's 100th career appearance. It also was his first victory in six starts against the Cardinals since Aug. 11, 2006, when he tossed a complete game in a 7-1 win.

During spring training, Duke posted a 3.86 ERA in eight outings. He gave up 27 hits and had 16 strikeouts in 28 innings, solid stats for a guy who pitches to contact.

"When the numbers start to count, you really want to put things together," Duke said.

Last night, Duke gave up three runs (one earned) and five hits. He walked two and struck out four.

In the second inning, the Pirates used a station-to-station approach to build a 4-0 lead against right-hander Todd Wellemeyer (0-1).

Moss singled. Ramon Vazquez walked. Wilson rolled a single up the middle, scoring Moss. Nyjer Morgan and Sanchez each hit an RBI single.

McLouth walked, loading the bases. Ryan Doumit dropped an RBI single in front of right fielder Ryan Ludwick.

Albert Pujols cut off the throw and, seeing Doumit take a wide turn around first base, tossed the ball to second baseman Brendan Ryan, who was covering first base. Doumit was tagged out.

Another blunder by Doumit led to an unearned run for the Cardinals in the bottom of the inning.

As Ludwick fouled off a pitch, Doumit's mitt made contact with the bat. Ludwick went to first base on catcher's interference. Ludwick stole second and scored on Rick Ankiel's single.

The Pirates made it 5-1 in the third. Moss doubled and scored on Wilson's hit.

Doumit's rough night continued in the fifth inning. Ankiel struck out looking on an offspeed pitch, but Doumit seemed to be caught off guard by the pitch. The ball squirted away, and Ankiel reached first on a passed ball.

Ankiel eventually scored on Ryan's sacrifice fly to make it 5-2.

Sanchez began the sixth with his fourth hit of the game, a double to left. McLouth followed with his first hit of the season, a two-run homer to right.

Duke began running out of steam in the sixth. Khalil Greene walked on four pitches. Pujols singled. Both runners advanced on Luckwick's fly out.

Yadier Molina's sacrifice fly made it 7-3.


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 10, 2009

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